Sailors shooting for school history

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— A Steamboat Springs boys soccer team has never won a season opening, non-league soccer tournament.

That could change today at the Alexander Dawson Tournament.

The Sailors open play at 4 p.m. against Niwot, aiming to do better than just make it to the championships. The three-day tournament at Alexander Dawson, located near Boulder, is the lone chance Steamboat has this season to play Front Range schools.

"From several dynamics, this will be a big weekend," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "One, to test ourselves early season. Two, to test ourselves against Front Range teams. Three, to prepare ourselves for league play."

Playoff seedings are decided by a state committee with limited exposure to Western Slope teams, so a strong showing by the Sailors against larger Front Range schools this weekend would speak volumes when seeding times rolls around later this year, assuming Steamboat takes care of business in league play to become playoff eligible.

"Since this is our only opportunity to play someone outside the Western Slope, we basically get one shot early on to show that we are strong and can compete at the state level," Bohlmann said.

The Sailors are inexperienced in goal, as Andy Comeau makes the transition from field player to netminder in his senior year, but Comeau has an experienced group in front of him that is confident the 2003 season can get off to a solid start.

"Coaching staff expectations and player expectations are very high," Bohlmann said. "We are going into this tournament to win it."

In addition to Steamboat and Niwot, the other teams in the tournament field are host Alexander Dawson, Kent Denver, Ralston Valley, Alameda, Battle Mountain and a Maryland-based team named Dullis.

Steamboat's Friday and Saturday schedules are dependent on how they play today and on Friday.

The addition of Delta County (Cedaredge) to the Western Slope league is the primary reason why the Sailors were forced to cut back on non-league games. Steamboat plays all league opponents twice in one season.

To make up for the lack of Front Range exposure, Steamboat was able to play several scrimmages over the weekend, though scores are officially not kept or reported, Bohlmann said.

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